In “Marketization” of Consumer Apps, Springpad Aims for Mainstream

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Most content marketing—such as blogs by brands and corporations—is ineffective at making money. Meanwhile, most consumer apps can’t find an audience. Maybe by joining forces, the two can find a happy medium. Or maybe not.

“Most content marketing that exists is to push people to a specific destination,” Hampton says. “We’re making that information useful, so it becomes a more long-lived experience.”

A number of startups are exploring business models at the intersection of mobile advertising, rewards, and apps: Kiip and SessionM, just to name a couple. Pinterest and Flipboard, where brands are welcome to curate their own boards and magazines, are arguably in the content marketing game. And keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter, and the ad ecosystem around social media too (e.g., Brand Networks and Nanigans).

2. The personal productivity category is heating up, especially on mobile. Not a big surprise, given that the information overload problem gets worse every day, while computing power and device capabilities continue to improve (at least in theory).

But it’s a bit of a surprise, since productivity and task management are inherently dry subjects. “It’s never been sexy,” Janer says. “It’s like going to the dentist.”

In addition to big players like Evernote and Dropbox, startups like Pocket, Prismatic, Cloze, Mustbin, and Moju Labs are trying to help people manage their information streams more efficiently, from Web articles to photos to paperwork to communications. And there are dozens of companies trying to provide more personal recommendations on all sorts of topics.

3. This could foretell a new kind of interactive bookstore or library. Imagine going into Springpad (or your app of choice) and finding all the content you want, via personal recommendations, branded experts, and social sharing with your network. It’s at least a new way for people to consume digital content—and then take action by making plans, updating checklists, and completing tasks. If that’s the way things are heading, there will be many efforts to figure out the right interface.

Interestingly, Evernote tried something like branded notebooks back in 2010, and it didn’t go anywhere. But Evernote’s user base of early adopters is very different from what Springpad is aiming for—namely, mainstream and gender-balanced. That also speaks to finding an audience of people who actually want to blend content and tasks more seamlessly, rather than keeping them separate.

In the end, Springpad is just one of many consumer-app companies trying to “cross the chasm” (in Geoffrey Moore-speak) and gain widespread adoption. All the digital-assistant and personal-organizer apps out there will have to find ways to distinguish themselves in a sea of noise.

Springpad still likes its chances of winning over mainstream users. “The partner strategy is critical to making this happen,” Janer says. “We’re riding on their audience, content, and expertise,” while providing a platform they don’t have yet, he adds.

“We are here and ready for the next generation,” Hampton says.

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Editor in chief. E-mail him at gthuang [at] Follow @gthuang

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